Emerging protective and risk factors of mental health in Asian American students : findings from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Gizem ARAT*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


A large number of studies observed inconsistent findings about mental health among Asian American adolescents. Using data from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, this study examined a set of emerging risk and protective factors (dietary patterns, bullying, cyberbullying, TV consumption, and physical activity) for psychosocial distress (depression and suicidal ideation) in 12- to 18-year-old 671 Asian compared to 6,415 Caucasian and 3,477 African adolescents. Using descriptive statistics and bivariate logistic regression analysis, this study found that Asian students (27.1%) reported more depression than their African (25.9%) but less depression than their Caucasian (29.4%) counterparts. Asian students (18.8%) reported more suicidal ideation than their African (15.9%) and Caucasian (16.8%) counterparts. Results also depicted that lower carrot intake increased depression risk (odd ratio (OR): 1.53, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.05, 2.21), while higher milk and less carbonated soft drink consumption decreased suicidal ideation risk (OR:.49, 95% CI:.26,.91, OR:.53, 95% CI:.32,.88, respectively), only applicable to Asian students. However, unexpectedly, low levels of bullying on school property resulted in higher depression (Asians, OR: 1.53, 95% CI: 1.05, 2.24; Africans, OR: 3.32, 95% CI: 2.96, 3.72; and Caucasians, OR: 2.40, 95% CI: 2.04, 2.83). Similarly, lower cyber bullying (Asians, OR: 3.54, 95% CI: 2.12, 5.93; Africans, OR: 2.88, 95% CI: 2.47, 3.34; and Caucasians, OR: 2.59, 95% CI: 2.19, 3.04) predicted higher odds of depression and suicidal ideation in all racial groups. Another interesting risk factor of higher suicidal ideation in overall racial groups was high levels of breakfast consumption (Asians, OR: 3.19, 95% CI: 1.91, 5.31; Africans, OR: 1.52, 95% CI: 1.21, 1.90; and Caucasians, OR: 1.35, 95% CI: 1.17, 1.54). School staff and mental health professionals should embrace culturally responsive healthy dietary patterns to promote positive youth development in Asian Americans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-205
Number of pages14
JournalVulnerable Children and Youth Studies
Issue number3
Early online date12 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescent
  • Asian American
  • mental health
  • protective factors
  • risk factors


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